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News & Features » November 2018 » “White Trash” by Nkosi Ife Bandele

“White Trash” by Nkosi Ife Bandele

Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.

This week, a trash run with the kids comes with a dose of casual racism

White Trash
by Nkosi Ife Bandele aka Easy Like Sunday Morning
Seven-year-old, three-year-old

My family and I are the only historically black Americans living in our New York City apartment building. The overwhelming majority of the residents are White, and a disproportionally high number of the Whites are Orthodox Jews. Another “blackish” family residing in the building discourages any affiliation with my family and me (and so we don’t fuck with them).

For the most part, the Whites and we remain cordial. We hold doors, we smile, we make the smallest of talk.

“Looks like summer’s coming early this year.”

“Yes, it does.”

An unusually aggressive Orthodox Jewish white man likes to tease me about doing my family’s laundry. “Man, you always do the laundry! What does your wife do?” Wary of prolonging the conversation, I decide not to offer any one of my potential snappy comebacks reflecting upon my wife’s accomplishments. Besides, the guy wears the same black suit every day, heavily stained with white flakes and other multi-colored food substances. Moreover, he appears remorseful, copping to his shame about being thirty-something and not yet married.

My kids, a boy and a girl, seven and three respectively, seem to take our living situation in stride. On occasion, their little faces have appeared puzzled as to why they can’t connect with the Jewish children in the building as they do with white friends elsewhere. I have been reluctant to attempt explanation. Seriously, how do you inform your children that they have not been “chosen”?

On one specific occasion, when riding the elevator down from our sixth-floor place, a woman with whom I was somewhat familiar entered the elevator on three, customarily smiled, and when she noticed that we both held trash bags, asked if I would mind “dropping off” hers in the basement as well—all the while extending her grimy bag to me.

My kids stood on each side of me, and my first thought concerned them. As a parent, and perhaps more specifically a black parent, it pains me terribly to know that I cannot protect my children from the inevitable humiliation that they will face in society-at-large any more than I can protect myself. Mostly, I try to keep them moving, focused on what’s ahead of them, things about which they do have some measure of control.

My second thought morphed into horror over the glee with which the woman asked the question. Her tone possessed the most feigned delightful ring. My accepting her trash would validate me, make me a good guy, a decent human being, despite whatever she or anyone else may have otherwise thought about me and my kind.

When I had time to reflect later, I further thought about this in relation to the idea of “white privilege,” that this person did not have to consider what it meant to ask a black man to take out her trash or how this might possibly offend him, and with his children in tow at that.

My immediate anguish resulted in the slightest of grimaces as I accepted her trash. As you likely guessed, she gushed with gratitude. “Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you. That’s so very nice of you.”

I don’t know what my kids were thinking at that moment, or if they had been thinking anything at all, but I looked at them to reassure them (even as I trembled with self-loathing).

My sweet and so-perceptive son felt just as concerned about me.

“She’s a nice lady, right Dad?”

Such a sweetie! He deserved my honesty.

“I don’t know about that, but I don’t think it’s cool to ask another person to take out your trash.”

I winked at him afterwards, and he winked right back.

A moment later, my daughter fell back into me to offer her version of reassurance.

 *

When we arrived at the basement, I gently placed our family’s bag in the canister, but I treated the woman’s bag very roughly, stuffing it in with all I had and slamming on the canister top. Then I swift-kicked the trashcan, which caused each of my kids to take a haughty kick. My daughter particularly enjoyed the kicking and furiously kept at it.

“Stupid trash, stupid, stupid trash!”

My son and I, who find just about everything she does adorable, including when she overdoes it, smothered her with hugs and crazy laughter to stop her, and I promised to myself to be a better father.

***

NKOSI IFE BANDELE is a storyteller who has worked as journalist and has written for stage, TV, and film. His debut novel, The Ape is Dead!, is about a black student’s journey toward true love on Columbia University’s politically-charged campus in the late 1980s, when an alleged racist attack perpetrated by a gang of white football players prompts a city-wide crisis.  His second novel, The Beast, is about a hip-hop reporter who gets caught up in the mix of a murder mystery of a black cop killer and his subsequent assassination. Both books are published by Crimson Cloak Publishing and can be purchased on their website here. His short fiction include his hilarious “Fuckity, Fuck Fuck, Fuck,” “Fuckity Fuck Fuck Fuck Part 2: Shit, Shit, Shit, Shit, Shit,” and “Itty Bitty Tittty Committee.” These are also published by Akashic, and can be accessed here. He has been published under the pen names Easy Boheme, Eshu Bandele, and skoo d foo, da bom! His website, including his blog THAT N-WORD’S CRAZY!, is eshubandele.com. Visit his Facebook Fan Page here. He’s also on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

***

Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Nov 13, 2018

Category: Original Fiction, Terrible Twosdays | Tags: , , , , , , ,



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